China hopes US-led naval exercise will not harm the interests of "third parties"

By Shan Jie Source:Global Times Published: 2016-3-4 2:13:01

Joint drill with India, Japan meant to bolster S.China Sea interests: experts

China's foreign ministry said on Thursday that China hopes a joint naval exercise by the US, Japan and India in waters off the northern Philippines near the South China Sea will not harm the interests of "third parties."

Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr, chief of the United States Pacific Command, said on Wednesday in a security conference in New Delhi that the naval exercise, Malabar, will be held in the northern Philippine Sea and that Japan will take part, Reuters reported on Thursday.

"We hope that cooperation among relevant countries will contribute to regional peace, stability and security, and no harm shall be done to the interests of third parties," Hong Lei, a spokesman for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told a daily news briefing on Thursday.

Harris said the United States wished to expand the annual naval exercises it holds with India into a joint operation across the region, which could draw India directly into the row in the South China Sea, Reuters reported.

"The intention of the exercise is to show all three nations' united support for the Philippines," Zha Xiaogang, a research fellow at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, told the Global Times.

"The US aims to show its military presence through the exercises to further press China in the Asia-Pacific and to demonstrate that it does not acknowledge China's position on the South China Sea issue," Zha said.

In 2015, India and the US expanded their annual naval drills in the Bay of Bengal to include Japan after a gap of eight years.

"They each take what they need from this exercise," Liu Feng, an expert on South China Sea studies, told the Global Times, explaining that the US is attempting to corner China in the Asia-Pacific region.

"Japan would like to relieve the pressure from disputes with China in the East China Sea, while India wants to increase its strength and gain more say in the South China Sea issue in a bid to seek development in Southeast Asia," Liu said.

Amid rising tensions in the South China Sea, Harris said at a briefing in February that the deployment of missile defense systems on an island in the South China Sea would be a "clear indication of militarization."

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi countered this, saying China is entitled to deploy "limited and necessary defense facilities" on its islands for self-defense, which has nothing to do with "militarization."

The Chinese foreign ministry confirmed on Thursday that China had towed away a foreign ship that ran aground on the reef of Wufang Jiao in the South China Sea, while Philippine media and some Western reports offered a different interpretation of the same affair.

"The Philippines, as well as other countries that have disputes with China over the South China Sea issue, should try to adapt to China's administration in that area," said Jin Canrong, associate dean of the School of International Studies at the Renmin University of China.

Posted in: Diplomacy

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